"I've been wasting my time, ohh, I am losing my mind…"

by Katie Pizzuto on May 27, 2010

in Blogs,food writing,Uncategorized

They say you’re only as strong as your weakest soldier, or as beautiful as your biggest wart, or whatever the hell the euphemism is, so in the interest of full disclosure (warts and all) I wanted to reach out to Gonzo readers for help—help that, luckily for you, doesn’t involve donations of wine, kidneys or first borns. If, in the end, it’s your help that gets me where I want to go, I’ll happily consider a thank-you gift of wine, a kidney or my first born.

I’ve never wanted to do anything in my life as much as I’ve wanted to publish a book. In fact, half the reason I started this blog was to hone my skills, gain an audience and use it as a springboard to a book. And silly me, I was green enough to think that the very essence of this blog—the entire gastronomic world (not just wine or food) served up Gonzo style—was enough to base a book on. Cork dorks, after all, are usually foodies, and vice versa. Same goes for craft beer/spirits lovers, etc. A book that touched on gastronomy as a whole, rather than just one topic, seemed like a slam dunk because nothing like it exists. In fact, nothing like me really exists anyway, since the majority of writing in the food/beverage section of any major bookstore is dedicated to educational pursuits, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if they were also entertaining…but they’re not…at all. Op/Ed simply doesn’t exist, especially in the world of fine beverage. And though the food world has writers like Anthony Bourdain that serve as the voice of dissidence, there’s little else. But there’s a need, isn’t there? Are we happy with the state of food/wine writing as it stands, or do we clamor for something more?

But I hit a SNAFU—not small by any means—known as literary agents. Apparently a shitload of them love my writing and think I’m “publishable” but they think my book proposal blows chunks. Ahh, the devil’s in the details, ain’t he? Writing about the many mavericks in the gastronomic field and whether those mavericks should be lauded or shot, is apparently not what a literary agent thinks will sell. Gonzo Gastronomy: The Angels & Demons of Food & Wine, as it stands right now, is a fish flopping on the ship’s deck, gasping for life. Mouth to mouth anyone? Here’s what I need from you…

If Gonzo became a book, what would you want out of it? What kind of a read would you want it to be? Topics? Point of view? Focus? Am I totally nuts to take a blog like this to the printed page? Did I lose something in translation? If you picked up a book with a chapter on Food Network’s fall from grace, a chapter on the underground mezcal revolution, a chapter on Champagne’s mutiny, and a chapter on extreme beers would you start salivating to read more or would you toss it into a fire and ask where Michael Pollan’s latest diatribe is?

In a blogosphere that’s filled with inane tasting notes and recipes, I set out to create one that didn’t get lost in the din. I wanted to establish myself as a writer that doesn’t fear reprisal from the industry, that distances herself from mainstream media, and that welcomes controversy with both open arms and a middle finger. I truly thought that readers wanted something more than an education in gastronomy—they wanted a visceral dissertation on what gastronomy does…move us. But I could be wrong (it hasn’t happened yet, but stranger things have happened). My readership is all over the map…foodies, wine geeks, craft beer lovers, gypsies, tramps, thieves, whatever. What the hell do YOU want out of a Gonzo book, if in fact you want anything at all?

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jim May 27, 2010

Might sound stupid, Katie, but what about actionable info? A survival guide to get the most out of gastronomic pursuits.

Talk about Mezcal and then tell us how to distill it (or find it, or pair foods, etc.). Talk about huge bodied craft beer, and then give us a tasting list, from bold up to mind blowing. Talk about the fall of Food Network and then provide a guide of food blogs and video sites that are the real deal. You get the idea. Make it an action guide, a reference book for navigating the emerging world of Gonzo Gastronomy. Like a cookbook meets survival guide.

People live to be told what to try, even if they’re too lazy to actually do it. Start thinking about solutions. This way you can keep your voice and subject matter intact while having a strong theme throughout.

My 2 cents.

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2 Vino Luci Style May 27, 2010

Not exactly what you’ve asked for but of interest maybe is that I’ve just finished developing a blog for an author getting published. See http://www.cathiebeck.com. Cathie suffered enough rejection to decide to self publish which surprisingly then led to getting a publisher interested. You might contact her; I am sure she would have some insight into your quest.

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3 Katie Pizzuto May 27, 2010

Great thoughts, Jim. I had given some thought to the idea of Gonzo Gastronomy: “saving the future of the american palate” sort of thing, which would play in well to that. Thanks!

@Barb…not at all, I appreciate the help. I’ve received other suggestions to self publish, so that’s a viable option as well. Then I get to do whatever the hell I want :)

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4 kevin May 27, 2010

Katie,

What would Raoul Duke do? You are the closest thing the wine blogosphere has to Hunter S. Thompson as it is, so I could see you doing a Fear and Loathing style of book, with shades of Zane Lamprey’s Three Sheets TV show, a bit Julia Child on Ritalin, and a gourmand’s Jackass. But you really need to be YOU, and everything else will fall into place. Like the self-publish idea. Lot more leg work for you though.

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5 Katie Pizzuto May 27, 2010

Funny you say that, Kevin, as one of the chapters was destined to be “Fear and Loathing in the Blogosphere” breaking down the ongoing battle between traditional wine journalism and the new onslaught of bloggers. I have to say, I love your description…permission to use it as a back-cover blurb?! LOL. I don’t mind the leg work of self publishing if it’s a means to an end. I honestly don’t think agents/publishers have a clue what readers want anymore.

I keep reminding myself of how many years HST spent in poverty, obscurity and inebriation, sending hate mail to every publisher that turned him down. Hmmm…there’s a thought…

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6 KAHUNA May 27, 2010

I think a picture of you giving this fat Italian guy Kahuna a big wet kiss would get me to buy the book!

Oh and when you figure out an answer let me know-

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7 castello May 27, 2010

Be yourself and publish yourself! Don’t kiss Kahuna!

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8 blue May 27, 2010

problem is no one reads book anymore. it’s unfortunate for writers and anyone in the publishing industry, be they writers or the publishers themselves.

that being said, to focus is the only way. people are too scattered for a tell-all dissertation. they want to research a particular topic, find the answer to a question, or as jim said, be told what to do, even if they will never actually do it.

think of it as a marketer, which in your case is a literary agent. how can they possibly sell a book about everything? who can they target, who can they market to? if there are too many audiences, it would be a) very difficult to find the right messaging to sell it to everyone, and/or b) too expensive to launch multiple campaigns in order to reach every target. in this day in age a marketer/literary agent/decision-maker simply won’t stretch the budget that thin. that goes for every industry, especially publishing in this day in age.

my advice would be to pick one topic and stick with that. you could get very specific on one topic (for example, your post on lambics). or you could pick a broader topic (like mezcal – its history, production, current underground revolution, and ways to incorporate it into your current food/beverage repertoire) and explore every aspect of that, of course giving your clever, witty if snarky 2 cents wherever appropriate.

the beauty of this approach, ESPECIALLY if you already have the interest of publishers plus a substantial following online, is that you could make it a series. And publishers/marketers LOVE that, which to them means a more stable revenue stream…

good luck to you, whatever you do! i’m definitely looking forward to seeing how things unfold.

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9 Smokenmirrors May 27, 2010

Feel free to kiss Kahuna, just make sure your shots are up to date.
I have always found your style of writing to be HSTesque. That’s your style Katie. Stick with it. Best of luck to you.

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10 subdaimon May 27, 2010

How about debunking myths about American Gastronomy as a way of illustrating what you perceive as your truth. To put it as the classic Johnny Rotten, “That what is not”.

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11 Mack223 May 27, 2010

Writing in general is an art even if its from a critical point of view. And the thing with artists is that they have to be true to their vision, their unique take on flavor if you will. And by your title I shall also have to summon the ghost of Lono aka Hunter Thomson as an example, publishers didnt tell him what to write, he told them. Besides, why do you have to publish at all? Make your work available in pdf download, with the request for the people dling it, to donate as they see fit. After its a success, make a private printing for the coffetable nuts. ;)

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12 Evan Dawson May 28, 2010

Call me crazy, but I find the subject you’ve explored – “saving the American palate” – to be plenty focused enough. The publishing world is a fickle, strange creature. It’s about one lucky break, which seems only destined to come to you if there is even an inch of karma in the multiverse.

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13 Nate May 28, 2010

“In a blogosphere that’s filled with inane tasting notes and recipes, I set out to create one that didn’t get lost in the din.”

Yeah we don’t need any more of that garbage. In fact I am working on an article that elaborates on your sentiments there.

I read through your blog and really enjoyed it. I say go for the book.

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14 Katie Pizzuto May 28, 2010

@Kahuna…it’s nice to have dreams, dear :)

@Ed…seems to be the going opinion!

@Blue…my first issue would be, if in fact the average reader is scattered, unfocused and hurried, wouldn’t my idea be better? My chapters are bite-sized…hunks of information that don’t take 200 pages to get through. I personally would rather read a chapter about mezcal than an entire book…that would get tedious! Your point is taken, however, with focusing somewhat in order to create a series. Gonzo on Wine, Gonzo on Beer, Gonzo on Food, Gonzo on Spirits, etc. At least that would afford me a wider road to travel.

@Mike…shots, got it. And thanks…I’d never change my style of writing in a million years, and that’s what the agents actually love…no problem there. Just the focus of the book that’s losing them.

@Sub…not a bad idea actually, given that I’ve done that here already several times…will consider. Thanks!

@Mack…If I self published I’d also look down the avenue of Ebooks or such, but a PDF download will never be taken as a serious endeavor by the publishing world, which is eventually where I’d like to be :)

@Evan…I obviously thought it was focused enough, too, but I keep hearing nearly the same exact thing from agent after agent. I’m sitting tight for now and sticking to my guns, but I was curious if my readers, who are the market at the end of all this, thought it was a good idea or not. As for the karma, from your mouth to Buddha’s ears!

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15 Katie Pizzuto May 28, 2010

@Nate…thanks :) And can’t wait to read the article.

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16 Lenn Thompson May 28, 2010

Katie: Have you tried going straight to some publishers — rather than through agents? I know a few people who have gone that route (and I’m in that situation myself) — maybe it’s possible that the agents are wrong?

As you and I have discussed via email over the years, I’ve long believed that every publication needs to have SOMETHING unique or else it’s useless (like many blogs haha). For me, it’s a niche in terms of focus. For you, it’s always been your singular voice.

I think the right publisher or agent will come along and recognize the potential here. Just keep at it.h

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17 Katie Pizzuto May 28, 2010

Honestly, I haven’t Lenn…I didn’t think it was a viable option…that they’d laugh me off. But now you’re making me think twice. Possible the all-knowing agents were WRONG?! LOL. I keep thinking they are, but needed reassurance. Thanks for the push.

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18 Coupe 60 May 28, 2010

Katie, I think that you are on the right path with your whole angels and demons concept…I think those are some of your more interesting topics. But I think I would not so much go with the Mavericks as you put it as the prime focus, but rather a set of the most important issues in the food and beverage world, and then laud an angel and blast a demon…For example your view on cooking shows on the air…blast away at Giada and her “two main talents”, and find someone to praise.

The book needs a unifying theme, and it can be as simple as here’s whats wrong in the gastronmical world today as evidenced by X, and here is the answer we need more Y… This way the book could be read in bits and pieces, or all at once and still make sense.

I would also think that it would need at least a mention of Austrian Downhill skiing great Franz Klammer to help it sell in Europe…but that just may be me…

Put me down for a copy if it comes out…

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19 Coupe 60 May 28, 2010

oh and I believe that Kahuna’s idea of giving out Wet kisses to overweight Italian guys is a sound one, especially if you are marketing this book in NJ….I could support that idea

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20 David May 28, 2010

I am a fairly new reader to your blog but what I would like from a book like yours is your straight forward opinion with your justification for it. I may agree or disagree but what is most important to me (and hopefully other readers) is I take away a better knowledge of the subject. You did an excellent job of this on your post about spaghetti carbonara.

Hope my comments and info. is of help to you.

Best,

David

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21 Katie Pizzuto May 28, 2010

@Lou…Not a bad idea…each chapter’s subject has an angel and a demon, where initially I had some chapters that were about angels, and some that were about demons. Most agents told me that idea sucked because it was simply a matter of “i like this, i hate that”. Know what I mean? I’m getting some good info here, though, on how I can perhaps stay true to my original intent and just rework a little to hone it.

@David…thanks so much, and welcome!

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22 jaimelia May 28, 2010

People have short attention spans. Build vignettes. I love the HST angle and though I’ve personally not read a lot of his work, every time I read yours, I have the same thought: This chick is the HST of food and wine. The vignette idea – well, I guess people need to have something they can relate to as a jumping off point. I’m picturing a sort of Sex and the City meets Gourmet Magazine meets AC/DC. If that makes any sense. :)

Personally, I don’t think you should change a thing. Your work is what I aspire to.

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23 jaimelia May 28, 2010

Oh, and if you write about Giada…please please please can you do a whole dissertation on how she holds up that giant melon of a head? :D

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24 Don May 28, 2010

OK Katie I actually read this whole thread! That is a lot of dedication for a whiskey guy. Stay true to yourself, blah blah blah… I think the idea if a theme is an important one. I see it like the petals of a flower and the theme is your stem. For you I think the obvious stem is wine. from there you can go in so many directions. Food pairings, shipping problems, Beer that is like wine, you get the idea, but always bring it back to the central theme that is wine. I also like Jim’s suggestion that there is a “solution” that you propose in each chapter that involves an action step for the reader. It is information and a central theme that people want and understand. I also think you should go directly to the publishers. Who needs agents for a book, fuck em! They just seem to be muddying the water with their individual opinions. The only opinion that is needed here is yours! Good luck, and regardless of what you come up with I will buy a copy. An Autographed copy, of course.

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25 Coupe 60 May 28, 2010

@jaime, if she writes about Giada…that isn’t the melon that the male audience is interested in…Katie kindly keep all of your Giada melon commentary to those that are below the neckline… Thanks!!!

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26 castello May 28, 2010

I would like to see a count of Giadas teeth. I believe she has way too many.

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27 Katie Pizzuto May 28, 2010

@Jaime…between your description and Kevin’s I think I’ll go get checked out for multiple personality disorder, LOL!

@Giada-lovers-and-haters…She’s part of the chapter already. No mention of big heads or many teeth, but boobs are discussed :)

@Don…so you do understand the agents’ points and sympathize with them a bit, then? Two votes for more focused subject matter, then.

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28 Coupe 60 May 28, 2010

@katie re Giada – It is insight and smart decisions like that which will bring this book to the top of the Best Seller lists…

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29 Linsey May 30, 2010

I dont know anything about how the system works but have you thought about publishing through the Kindle type gadget.

I know they do books and newspapers through it and its growing all the time,

Just an idea

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30 Katie Pizzuto June 1, 2010

That’s definitely an option, Lin, and I’ll more than likely go that route IN ADDITION to some sort of printed option…I can’t assume everyone has a Kindle-like gadget at this point, and I don’t want to alienate!

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31 Linsey June 3, 2010

You ever thought of writing a novel that brings in you views and styles of writing?

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32 Katie Pizzuto June 3, 2010

Have started and stopped novels before simply because I run out of steam with making stuff up, LOL…reality serves as better fuel :)

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33 Linsey June 3, 2010

Sounds like you need ‘a year in provence’ then you could do a book that really did both

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